Friday marked 72 years since the liberation of Auschwitz concentration camp in 1945. Since 2001, Holocaust Memorial Day (HMD) has taken place in the UK; a day dedicated to the remembrance of those who were killed in the Holocaust and subsequent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur.
‘How can life go on?’ is the theme of this year’s Holocaust Memorial Day. How did life continue for the survivors of the Holocaust? For those involved it must still feel impossible to come to terms with what happened. But it is our responsibility to rebuild and unite, ensuring that life can go on for those who survived and continue to survive genocides. Yet we must ask ourselves the question: are we taking responsibility today?
There are hundreds of stories of individuals who survived the Holocaust. No story is the same as the next. But what these survivors have in common is that in the face of extreme prejudice, discrimination, and ultimately extermination, they lived, and therefore they won.
Even so, however, following the Holocaust, there were Jews, LGBT people, disabled people, political dissidents and countless other victims of Nazi persecution who had been displaced from their homes with nowhere to go, many with no family to continue their life with. Many needed urgent medical support, both physical and mental. In the immediate aftermath of the Holocaust, it wasn’t simply a question of how, it was also a question of where must life go on.
Having witnessed and been subjected to the atrocities of the Holocaust, many survivors found it difficult to continue their life as normal in the years that followed. Having had their mothers, fathers, sons, and daughters, torn away from them, how could one return to normality? Survival isn’t simply about mending broken bones, bandaging up wounds, or adapting to your new surroundings. Survival is about learning to live again, but for many survivors of the Holocaust, learning to live was the most difficult and traumatic part of their experience.
Although it has taken time for survivors of the Holocaust to rebuild and feel comfortable to remember, 70 years on we are incredibly fortunate to be able to witness survivors sharing their stories with people of all ages. I have been researching and reading many accounts for this article and I urge you to hear, watch or read the stories of those who are still with us today. It is our responsibility to ensure that life does go on, remembering the atrocities that took place but crucially learning the lessons in order to apply them to our lives today.